What Is FMCSA Compliance: A 101 Guide For Truckers

Published on
April 22, 2022
min read

No matter if you are brand new to the trucking industry or a lifelong driver, the FMCSA will always play a major role in the daily functions of your business. Understanding the basics to meet all of their requirements will make your job easier and help to boost your safety ratings which can pay back dividends in more ways than one.

What is the FMCSA?

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration was formed in 1999 by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act and is run by the United States Department of Transportation. It was formed to collect data and then use that data to develop better safety procedures and enforce regulations in an effort to reduce crashes and fatalities involving big rigs on the road. They are located throughout the United States and employ more than 1,000 American workers. 

Their end goal is simple. To find out what is not working (by collecting data from every single motor carrier registered with the FMCSA in terms of failed inspections, unsafe driving histories, and other violations) and develop strategies and new regulations that will improve the roadway not only for regular traffic but that will also protect our commercial drivers and companies from large lawsuits. 

What Does it Mean to be FMCSA Compliant?

Becoming FMCSA Compliant is not difficult. It is finding the proper system to keep all of your records up-to-date and having that information easily accessible if you are ever audited as well as at any time you have a driver go through a roadside inspection. 

Some of the data you need to have on hand to remain FMCSA compliant include.

  • A current list of your active drivers along with proper documentation.
  • Each driver must have an active CDL on file with their company in order to be behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. This will also include an up-to-date medical certificate that has been uploaded with their respective state. 
  • Hours of Service Records
  • Whether you keep your hours of service through an ELD system or through paper logs you are required to have current records for all drivers on file in order to remain compliant.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing Records
  • You need to be able to show that you have an approved system set up for drug and alcohol testing along with any results from those tests. This will include any pre-employment tests as well as randoms that have been completed.
  • Pre and Post Vehicle Inspection Reports
  • It is a requirement with the FMCSA for drivers to complete a pre and post-trip inspection of their equipment. This is designed to be proactive in stopping crashes instead of reactive because you didn’t know something was wrong with your unit. Having current documentation of this is vital not only in the motor carrier’s file but also in the tractor with the driver in case of a DOT Inspection while on the road. 

Those are the main factors in keeping compliant with the FMCSA but it is imperative that you continue to keep up with their regulations as they are a data-driven agency and continue to change some rules and regulations as they collect more data on a daily basis.  Be sure to check out the FMCSA website for the latest compliance information.

Why Is It Important to Comply with FMCSA Regulations?

Being FMCSA Compliant is not a choice if you want to operate a Commercial Truck Insurance Business. If you fail to meet their requirements your wheels will no longer be rolling.

There are benefits of complying with the FMCSA Regulations that can help you build a great business. Some of those include.

  • Not Being Fined
  • If you get caught with outdated records or no records at all, the FMCSA can fine your company and keep you off the road until those fines are paid. Remember this is a government entity that you are dealing with–not someone that you can brush off. 
  • Better Insurance Rates
  • A positive FMCSA Audit or Inspection will show up on your SMS profile and help you to get better insurance rates. Since insurance is something you are required to have, it most certainly doesn’t hurt to help yourself by keeping your records up-to-date and getting a better rate as a reward.
  • Higher Safety Rating
  • With positive feedback on your audits or inspections comes a higher safety rating for your company. This will help you not only stay in good standings with the FMCSA but is also a tool you can use to attract better drivers and increase production in your business. 

Remember that following these rules is not only to appease the FMCSA but is to keep the roadways and your drivers safe and to keep you out of court from any lawsuits that could stem from unsafe driving practices. 

What Is A Good FMCSA Score?

The FMCSA has what they call a CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program) score that is a result of all of the data that is collected from your business and then calculated to estimate how safe a business you are running. These scores range from Satisfactory to Conditional to Unsatisfactory. Obviously, your goal is to have a Satisfactory score. You can accomplish this by keeping all of your records up to date, having drivers and equipment that pass DOT Inspections, and not having any tickets or violations showing up in the FMCSA database.

If you do not have a Satisfactory score you will fall into their Interventions Process where they set up steps to help get your company back on track and will monitor you until it is. It can begin with something as simple as a warning letter and can escalate into an on-site inspection. 

Any crashes, investigations, or failed inspections will stay on your SMS profile with the FMCSA for up to 2 years. This is why it is vital to do your best to keep your business in prime shape at all times as issues are not something that can be erased overnight. There will be times when accidents happen that are out of you or your driver’s control, but keeping all aspects of the business that you can control in pristine order will give you the best shot at running a successful commercial trucking business.

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